Reflections on the Great Depression

Reflections on the Great Depression

Randall E. Parker

This book explores the most prominent economic explanations of the Great Depression and how it affected the lives, experiences, and subsequent thinking of economists who lived through that era. Presented in interview format, this collection of conversations with Moses Abramovitz, Morris Adelman, Milton Friedman, Albert Hart, Charles Kindleberger, Wassily Leontief, Paul Samuelson, Anna Schwartz, James Tobin, Herbert Stein and Victor Zarnowitz provides a record of their reflections on the economics of the Great Depression and on the major events which occurred during those critical years. This volume is also another chapter in the legacy of the interwar generation of economists and is intended as a token of gratitude for the contributions they have made to the economics profession. Randall Parker has given us a window into the lives of these gifted scholars and an important glimpse into the world that shaped them.

Preface

Randall E. Parker

Subjects: economics and finance, economic psychology

Extract

This book is about the most prominent economic explanations of the Great Depression and how the events of this period affected the lives, experiences, and subsequent thinking of the leading economists of the twentieth century who lived through that era. I confess, as Ben Bernanke does in his recent book Essays on the Great Depression, that I consides myself to be a Great Depression buff. It all goes back to my father. The stories and lessons in life he would teach me were all punctuated with what happened to him and his family during the Depression. As a young child, J was intrigued with the historical record and the adjectives my father used to describe the desperation so many people were living under. In my studies of economics as both an undergraduate and graduate student, my fascination with the largest slide in the history of the business cycle intensified. Macroeconomics has always been my area of concentration and I observed three things in particular regarding the economic literature of the Depression early in my career (the second half of the 1980s). First, an active and fruitful research agenda could be pursued in testing the validity of modern macro theories using interwar data, that is, scrutinizing the robustness and plausibility of contemporary theory viewed through the lens of history. There existed strands of the literature where modern macro theories were judged by how well they explained the Depression. I thought the combination of macroeconomics and economic history was an interesting line...

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